Distance = 705 km Gas = $48.00 ($1.43/L in Vermillion Bay, ON)
WINNIPEG TO DRYDEN
About an hour from the Ontario border, driving east, the prairies suddenly end and the trees come back. It almost looks like B.C., with evergreens thick along the sides of the highway, and the road becomes a single-lane, winding route again, through lake country. It took me about four hours to drive from Winnipeg on Saturday morning to Dryden, Ontario, where I went off the grid to enjoy a weekend at a cottage.
I’m lying under a sheet, a blanket, two sleeping bags, and a quilt to stay warm in an unheated cabin on a tiny island in the middle of a big lake. There’s no flush toilet, no running water and no lights – except the ones that run temporarily off solar and wind power. I love it here, somewhere on the Trans-Canada Highway, somewhere in Western Ontario. It’s quiet, and peaceful. The air is fresh. I can hear a loon calling. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than this.
I’m staying with Chloe and Ian, a nurse and doctor, about my age, and Chloe’s parents, Ed and Susan. They all live in town, but they’ve brought me out here to their family cottage in their motorboat for the weekend. I met them less than 24 hours ago, through Couchsurfing.org, and they seem like real, down-to-earth Canadians. They feel like old friends. On Saturday we ate barbecue chicken in the gazebo and watched a fantastic storm blow in, and on Saturday spent a rainy afternoon inside the main cottage playing board games and then took multiple dips in the lake, between long sits in the sauna.
By Saturday night the storm had mostly passed, at least enough to make a camp fire and roast marshmallows, and this morning the sun was shining brightly again, so Chloe and I went for a canoe paddle across the lake and back. We saw a bald eagle perched at the tip of the tallest tree on the island and a beaver dam on the opposite shore. This weekend felt like a holiday within a holiday.
DRYDEN TO THUNDER BAY
I got a boat ride back from the cottage just after lunch, and it took me about four hours to drive to Thunder Bay – pop. 109,000 – making a slight detour to stop at Kakabeka Falls. Definitely worth it. The falls are enormous, loud and very impressive. I’m staying in Thunder Bay tonight with Suzy, a local woman (another Couchsurfing host) who took me to a Finnish restaurant (The Hoito) for dinner – the Fins make up the largest settler community in Thunder Bay, Suzy informed me – and then we went to the waterfront for a walk to check out the view of the Sleeping Giant.
Tomorrow, I’m headed to Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Soo Saint Marie), then to Parry Sound, and then to the big city – Toronto!
Travel tip: If you’re planning a road trip through Canada, don’t forget, Ontario is super massive. It’ll take at least four days to make it through if you’re driving a reasonable distance each day.
NEXT POST: Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie